"Women need to be considered as human beings first and foremost, we should have equal rights and security and safety and well being."
It was the 25th of September 2007.Melanie Goodwin was on her way home to the college campus to see her boyfriend, Ale Valencia. It was after 1am but she had just finished work. The nineteen year old worked as a Red Bull representative and had been at an event that had finished late. She was promoting Red Bull with other women for a midnight video game release at various GameStops in Texas, United States.
GameStop were due to release the game Halo 3 at midnight so it was Melanie's job to promote Red Bull to people waiting for the game release outside a few GameStop stores. When she was finished, she dropped one of the other Red Bull representatives, Sarah Hurley, back to her apartment complex. Melanie got on well with the other Red Bull representatives. They even met before work to go for dinner. Red Bull was the perfect fit for Melanie. She was a fun and bubbly person and loved to be the centre of attention.
Melanie and Ale
After Melanie dropped Sarah off, she called Ale to tell him she was almost home. He asked her to bring back some chocolate milk and Cheetos. Melanie stopped at a QuikTrip store in Denton. She was there for just a couple of minutes. She used the restroom and picked up the milk and Cheetos and paid for them and left around 1.44 am. Melanie never made it home that night.
Ale fell asleep after Melanie called him. He woke up the next morning and discovered that she wasn't at home so he went out to look for her.
That same morning, police received a call from a worker in Carrollton to say that there was a burnt body in a field. Police arrived at 11am. The body was in a ditch in a field and even though it was badly burnt, police believed it was a female due to the hair. They had no reports of any missing person at that stage. They noticed that the company beside the field had CCTV cameras outside the premises. The footage revealed that a man driving a red saturn car took something from the car and threw it in the ditch. As he walked away, there was an explosion of flames. He drove away from the fire. Police had noticed a similar car the night before in a parking lot and it had a gas can inside it. When they checked the plate, it was registered to a Glenn Goodwin. Police called to the Goodwin house.
Peggy Goodwin answered the door and confirmed that her daughter used the car. She called Ale who told her that he did not know where Melanie was. Ale told police that Melanie last called him when she was on the way home and told them she stopped off at QuikTrip.
Police checked the surveillance footage from QuikTrip. They saw Melanie on it and the manager confirmed she had been in the store. The footage revealed that there was also a man in the store at the time. He followed Melanie up and down the store and to the register. He then left the store before her but as soon as Melanie left, the man appears again on the footage and follows her as she walks towards her car. There was no footage of the car park area.
The manager told police that the man had been in the store for about an hour and a half before Melanie arrived. He used the phone to call his ex girlfriend multiple times asking for a lift home but she refused. He also told the manager that he couldn't go home as his mother told him to leave as he had beaten up his brother. Police traced the call and discovered the man from the footage was twenty year old Ernesto Reyes. The manager heard Ernesto ask Melanie for a lift but she was hesitant and refused. However they left at the same time so the manager just presumed she had agreed in the end.
Police wanted to speak with Ernesto but he fled back to Mexico where he was from. Mexican authorities agreed to release Ernesto to Texas prosecutors only if they pledged not to seek the death penalty. They reluctantly agreed and Ernesto was charged with capital murder.
At his Trial, it was the Prosecution case that Ernesto met Melanie in the store, followed her to her car and when they were away from the store, he raped her, murdered her and burnt her body. Melanie died as a result of blunt force trauma and strangulation.
Ernesto's legal team put a different version of events forward at Trial. It was their case that Ernesto met Melanie at the store, asked her for a lift home and she agreed. She asked him to get some drugs. He went to his friend's apartment. It was his case that Donovan Young raped and murdered Melanie after they did drugs together. Prosecutors argued this could not be the case as DNA taken from inside Melanie's body was a match to Ernesto's DNA and surveillance footage showed him setting Melanie's body on fire.
Ernesto in the store
Donovan Young gave evidence. Ernesto arrived at Donovan's apartment at 3am in Melanie's car and had blood on his shirt. He told Donovan that he had killed someone. Donovan saw the body of a woman in the car. Her underwear was pulled down and her skirt was up. Ernesto needed help disposing of the body. Donovan obliged. He gave him a gas can and money. Ernesto drove off in Melanie's car. He bought some gas and drove to the field. He threw Melanie's body in a ditch and set her on fire. He abandoned the car at an apartment complex.
He was back in Donovan's apartment at 5am and after sleeping for a few hours, he went to the apartment complex with Donovan to pick up Melanie's car. He told Donovan that he had smoked marijuana with Melanie and they were about to have sex in the car but when her boyfriend called she said that she had to go home. He wanted to have sex and didn't stop when she asked him to. When he was finished she told him she would say he raped her. He hit her in the face and her nose started to bleed. He was trying to hold her and she stopped moving.
It was clear that Ernesto lied to the Court and Donovan. No drugs were found in Melanie's system. He saw her that night at the store. His girlfriend had dumped him, his mother had thrown him out of the house and he spent the evening doing drugs and looking for trouble. When he saw Melanie alone in the store that night, he knew he would easily be able to overpower her. He forced her into the car, raped her and then murdered her. He thought that by setting her body on fire, no evidence would be found that could link him to the crime. The crime was opportunistic but calculated and brutal.
The Jury saw through his lies and he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Donovan Young was sentenced to eight years for tampering with evidence.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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